While Israel was camped beside the Jordan on the plains of Moab, across from Jericho, the LORD said to Moses,
"Instruct the people of Israel to give to the Levites from their property certain towns to live in, along with the surrounding pasturelands.
These towns will be their homes, and the surrounding lands will provide pasture for their cattle, flocks, and other livestock.
The pastureland assigned to the Levites around these towns will extend 1,500 feet a from the town walls in every direction.
Measure off 3,000 feet b outside the town walls in every direction -- east, south, west, north -- with the town at the center. This area will serve as the larger pastureland for the towns.
"You must give the Levites six cities of refuge, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety. In addition, give them forty-two other towns.
In all, forty-eight towns with the surrounding pastureland will be given to the Levites.
These towns will come from the property of the people of Israel. The larger tribes will give more towns to the Levites, while the smaller tribes will give fewer. Each tribe will give in proportion to its inheritance."
And the LORD said to Moses,
"Say this to the people of Israel: 'When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan,
designate cities of refuge for people to flee to if they have killed someone accidentally.
These cities will be places of protection from a dead person's relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be killed before being tried by the community.
Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves,
three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan.
These cities are for the protection of Israelites, resident foreigners, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.
"'But if someone strikes and kills another person with a piece of iron, it must be presumed to be murder, and the murderer must be executed.
Or if someone strikes and kills another person with a large stone, it is murder, and the murderer must be executed.
The same is true if someone strikes and kills another person with a wooden weapon. It must be presumed to be murder, and the murderer must be executed.
The victim's nearest relative is responsible for putting the murderer to death. When they meet, the avenger must execute the murderer.
So if in premeditated hostility someone pushes another person or throws a dangerous object and the person dies, it is murder.
Or if someone angrily hits another person with a fist and the person dies, it is murder. In such cases, the victim's nearest relative must execute the murderer when they meet.
"'But suppose someone pushes another person without premeditated hostility, or throws something that unintentionally hits another person,
or accidentally drops a stone on someone, though they were not enemies, and the person dies.
If this should happen, the assembly must follow these regulations in making a judgment between the slayer and the avenger, the victim's nearest relative.
They must protect the slayer from the avenger, and they must send the slayer back to live in a city of refuge until the death of the high priest.
"'But if the slayer leaves the city of refuge,
and the victim's nearest relative finds him outside the city limits and kills him, it will not be considered murder.
The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to his own property.
These are permanent laws for you to observe from generation to generation, wherever you may live.
"'All murderers must be executed, but only if there is more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.
Also, you must never accept a ransom payment for the life of someone judged guilty of murder and subject to execution; murderers must always be put to death.
And never accept a ransom payment from someone who has fled to a city of refuge, allowing the slayer to return to his property before the death of the high priest.
This will ensure that the land where you live will not be polluted, for murder pollutes the land. And no atonement can be made for murder except by the execution of the murderer.
You must not defile the land where you are going to live, for I live there myself. I am the LORD, who lives among the people of Israel.'"
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)